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101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia-Armenia Air Deal on: November 20, 2015, 12:45:54 PM

The standoff between Russia and the West is once again heating up, but this time tensions are centered on the Caucasus. On Nov. 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed his government to sign an agreement with Armenia to create a joint missile air defense system in the region. Not long after, the Armenian government confirmed that Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev is expected to visit Armenia in late November to officially sign the air defense system deal.

The move, though reminiscent of Moscow's actions in Central Asia and Belarus in previous years, comes at a time when Russia is being forced to respond to a wider array of challenges than ever before. Threats are rising from the Near East, while the West is ramping up its military activities in Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh moves closer to changing its political status. And as Russia increases its military presence in Armenia, its competition with major regional powers for influence in the South Caucasus will intensify, adding to the growing list of issues Russia must contend with outside its borders.


Russia has been pursuing the creation of a joint air defense system with Belarus and several Central Asian countries for some time. If constructed, the system would help Moscow better prepare for a range of threats growing beyond Russia's borders, including NATO's military buildup in Eastern Europe and rising terrorism in Afghanistan.

Putin's Nov. 11 order would create another similar system in Armenia that would protect the airspace far south of the Russian border. It would most likely involve air defenses and Russian combat jets deployed in Russia's Southern Military District. But it would also be located in a geopolitically complex region where many other regional players have significant strategic interests. An expanding military presence will put Russia in direct competition with Turkey's ambitions in the South Caucasus and Georgia's cooperation with NATO and U.S. forces. It will also put the brakes on Azerbaijan's goal of retaking its separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent territories.

For Armenia's part, the joint air defense deal comes at an opportune time. Its government has received mounting criticism from Armenian politicians and media amid a growing belief that the country's membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization and its reliance on Russia as a security guarantor have yielded few results, particularly as Azerbaijan pursues a more assertive military posture around Nagorno-Karabakh. Under the new agreement, Armenian air defenses will be strengthened, and the country will likely see new air defense equipment, radios, radar systems and combat helicopters deployed to its territory. Armenian Minister of Territorial Administration and Emergency Situations Armen Yeritsyan also recently announced that the Stepanavan Airport, located a mere 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) from the Armenia-Georgia border, will host Russian Mi-24 and KA-32 heavy helicopters starting in 2016. While these aircraft do not amount to a projection of Russian force because of their limited range, they do reflect the Kremlin's broader policy of boosting its air capabilities in Armenia — a process that dates back to January 2014, when Russia announced that it would strengthen Armenia's Erebuni Airport with Mi-24P, Mi-8MT and Mi-8SMV helicopters. Along a similar vein, Nagorno-Karabakh's president has said Russian forces may use his region's Stepanakert Airport for air operations, an offer that may be in response to the recent uptick in air cooperation between Armenia and Russia.

Russia's growing military presence in the South Caucasus will be especially worrisome to Turkey and Azerbaijan, Armenia's longtime rivals in the region. The two countries have ramped up their joint military exercises with Georgia over the past year, posing a heightened threat to Armenia, whose strategic position is already weak. Since Turkey already had less ability than Russia to project power into the South Caucasus, the Kremlin's recent moves will only increase the gap between Russian and Turkish influence there, thus intensifying their competition for sway in the wider region. Meanwhile, Russia's stronger aerial presence in Armenia could alter the military balance of power between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani politicians have already voiced concerns about the air defense agreement, and on Nov. 11 — the same day Putin gave his orders to sign the deal — Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited his country's S-300 anti-aircraft missile brigade, the unit responsible for Azerbaijan's aerial defenses.

The timing of the deal is significant for a number of reasons. First, it signals Russia's response to recent developments in the ongoing standoff between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. As talks progress on Armenia handing over to Azerbaijan several regions adjacent to the breakaway territory, Russia will boost its military presence in the South Caucasus to ensure the security of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and to make any further territorial concessions more politically palatable to Yerevan. Second, as Russia becomes more involved in the Syrian conflict, Moscow is keen to increase its ability to monitor its southern borders — a goal that a military presence in Armenia, with its proximity to the Middle East, is ideally suited to achieve.

Beneath these more immediate motives, the Kremlin also has several deeper, long-term strategic interests in mind. From Moscow's perspective, Georgia is moving closer — perhaps dangerously so — to the West. The country recently opened a NATO training center, and it continues to hold regular exercises with U.S. forces. In June and July, Georgia signed deals with France to procure an advanced system that would guarantee its air defense. Given the fact that Georgia was placed under a Western military embargo after the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, these events indicate an important turnaround taking place in relations between Georgia and the West. They also show that the air superiority Moscow heavily relied on to win its last conflict with Georgia may no longer be so assured.

Maintaining an advantage in air capabilities will remain a high priority for Moscow and will continue to drive Russia's military buildup in the South Caucasus. The Kremlin's latest air defense deal with Armenia is just another part of that effort as Moscow looks to counter rising threats from the Near East and Western encroachment upon the Russian periphery.
102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why so few Syrian Christian refugees? on: November 20, 2015, 12:43:28 PM
103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen.Ted Cruz on: November 20, 2015, 12:37:22 PM
Wasn't this temporary?
104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon ino longer on FB on: November 20, 2015, 12:35:31 PM
105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: November 20, 2015, 12:03:19 PM
Glad to hear it!
106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Palestinians sharpen their knives on: November 20, 2015, 11:58:05 AM
second post

 Palestinians Sharpen Their Knives
Geopolitical Diary
November 20, 2015 | 01:55 GMT Text Size

Two separate attacks in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Thursday add to the long list of stabbings, shootings and vehicular attacks racked up by Palestinian lone wolf militants over the past couple of months. A knife-wielding Palestinian from the West Bank who had a permit to work in Israel entered a store being used informally as a synagogue in Tel Aviv near the restaurant where he worked and stabbed three Israeli men, committing the third attack in the city this year. Shortly thereafter, a Palestinian man conducted a drive-by shooting targeting vehicles stopped in traffic in the Etzion settlement bloc in the West Bank. Five people were killed in the two attacks.

Two days before the assaults, the Israeli government banned the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a long-standing Islamist group that split with the more moderate southern branch of the Islamic Movement in the 1990s over whether to support the Oslo I Accord and whether to run for the Knesset. (The northern branch was opposed to both, while the southern branch supported the Oslo agreement and is now part of the Knesset's third-largest political bloc, which is made of up Arab parties.) Israel has banned the northern faction on grounds of its alleged financial and institutional links to Hamas and its role in busing in and encouraging Palestinian supporters to defend and Arabize the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

What is a Geopolitical Diary?

The Israeli Cabinet apparently had decided to ban the group two weeks earlier but did not make the decision public until Tuesday. Israel's security service reportedly expressed concerns that announcing the decision would incite attacks. Moreover, Israel likely anticipated that the West would criticize it for curbing political freedoms. The political climate following the attacks in Paris, however, may have been more conducive to announcing the decision. Nonetheless, banning the northern faction of the Islamic Movement may incite attacks like the ones on Thursday. Israel made a notable move in trying to maintain a balance with the Palestinians by signing an agreement with the Palestinian Authority on Thursday to bring 3G high-speed cellular services to the West Bank, resolving a long-standing grievance by the Palestinians. But improved cellphone service is by no means the antidote to these frequent violent outbursts.

Banning a group like the northern faction of the Islamic Movement may fall into the category of countering "soft terrorism" by going after the groups inciting the "hard terrorism." But such a strategy risks exacerbating the problem. The northern Islamic Movement likely will go underground with its charity and social activities, and its supporters will be all the more emboldened to resist efforts to silence the group. Moreover, the more moderate voices that the Israeli government counts on to drown out the more radical elements will have a stronger impetus to speak out in defense of their radical counterparts for the sake of their own credibility. Unsophisticated attacks such as the ones seen thus far, by definition, do not require significant training or operational security. As the past couple of months have shown, enough anger and frustration can mobilize a fair amount of Palestinians willing to charge into a crowd with a knife or in a car.

Nor will government measures close Palestinian ears to radical rhetoric. In a collection of Palestinian media excerpts compiled by the Middle East Media Research Institute during the height of the knife attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem, officials, clerics and even children are shown glorifying the knife as a symbol of the Al-Aqsa resistance. In one instructional video, a man wearing a black ski mask wordlessly demonstrates how to sharpen a knife and stab an Israeli in three different ways. Another shows a mother of one of the knife attackers unexpectedly pulling a knife from her bosom in the middle of a news interview, and another shows a young couple holding the birth certificate of their newborn baby bearing the name "Knife of Jerusalem."

In such a climate, it can be difficult to draw a clear line between isolated attacks and a full-blown intifada. Most agree that the spike of violence since late September is a collection of spontaneous outbursts with no clear goal or leadership, whereas an intifada exhibits a clear aim, designated leadership and organizational coherence. But the knife culture developing in the West Bank and Jerusalem suggests this could be more than just a fad. And the sheer spontaneity of these attacks confounds Israeli counterterrorism efforts. There is no one group or leader who can be held accountable, no finite number of cells that need to be broken up.

Fatah leaders have been careful to temper their praise of the attacks by still referring to them as "habbeh," or outbursts, to preserve the delicate political understanding that Fatah has with Israel. Hamas, on the other hand, says the sustainability of the violence makes it an intifada. This does not necessarily mean Hamas will try to steal the show and create another front from its base in Gaza. Hamas is still trying to build up sustainable operations in the West Bank, and the group is still recovering from its last military engagement with the Israelis in Gaza. From what we can discern, Hamas has not replenished its rocket arsenal enough to get involved in the fray beyond encouraging lone wolf attacks.

That said, Hamas' reaction to growing competition from the Islamic State bears close watching. To capitalize on the recent Palestinian attacks over Al-Aqsa, the Islamic State has put out an extensive media campaign titled "Slaughter the Jews," which includes video clips of militants threatening Israel in Hebrew. The Islamic State's fledgling presence in Gaza and significant activity in Sinai already has Hamas on guard, and the last thing Hamas (or Israel) wants is the outbreak of a conflict that would risk weakening Hamas and creating more space for the Islamic State to operate.

But the Islamic State is certainly testing Hamas' patience. In its recent media campaign, the Islamic State criticized Hamas for standing in the way of jihad with Israel, for selling out by participating in elections instead of following Sharia, and for "shamelessly" embracing a relationship with Iran. For now, it appears Hamas is resisting being prodded into action by local Islamic State affiliates, and it is continuing crackdowns on the Islamic State in Gaza. The success or failure of Hamas' containment strategy against the Islamic State will be a major determinant of whether the ongoing habbeh becomes a new and more defined phase of conflict for Israel.
107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen.Ted Cruz on: November 20, 2015, 11:50:42 AM
So, clarify for me exactly what is it that the State needs but does not now have?

And what is/was Cruz's role in that?

108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Are all men created equal on: November 20, 2015, 11:41:09 AM
109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israeli racism on: November 20, 2015, 10:04:06 AM
110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dems on Special Forces on: November 20, 2015, 09:55:46 AM
"The Clinton Crime Family"-- I like that.  Currently headed by the Empress Dowager of Chappaqua.

Anyway, this is recommended by a good friend who went far in SF:
111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An extended conversation with Hillary on: November 20, 2015, 09:54:45 AM
112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An extended conversation with Hillary on: November 20, 2015, 09:54:25 AM
113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: November 20, 2015, 09:16:34 AM
For the record, here is how it stands for me right now:

Regarding Carson, I continue to have liking for him but I have given him more than enough time to display foreign affairs chops and feel that he has come up short; likewise with his ability to make his case on various other policy issues in a way that could stand up to and defeat Hillary.   If I had to vote today, he would be my third choice with Cruz and Rubio tied at first and second. 

In sorting out who gets my vote and admittedly tiny financial backing I will be placing great weight on who polls better one-on-one versus Hillary.

Again, this is only a snap shot.  My thoughts remain as before-- quite fluid.
114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen.Ted Cruz on: November 20, 2015, 09:11:21 AM
I confess that this piece has resonance with me:

Exactly what is the point of giving the State ever more Orwellian powers and conversely shrinking our American freedom if, as this piece asserts, the Jihadis were already doing trade craft that makes irrelevant the Orwellian surveillance?  Aren't we regularly reading that the jihadis simply take someone dark?

If we are talking political opportunism here, can't the same be said of Rubio's position and attack in this moment?  Can't we say that Cruz is actually showing some backbone in this moment by not sacrificing our privacy to the convenience of the political winds of the moment?  Yes, I agree that if this is the case that he should have "come out and explained it"-- this is a fair point-- though all of these candidates are putting in real long days at a relentless pace and I am willing to give them (in this case Cruz) a chance to clean up missed opportunities.

As for Strassel's other attack points (from a frame of reference of the GOPe btw, I thought they were out of favor around here , , ,  rolleyes ) is the blame for the political consequences of the shutdown on Cruz or the GOPe Reps in Congress who failed to back his stand in favor of Congress actually exercising the power of the purse. 

I caught Cruz last night on Hannity (for the record I use the DVR to get only to segments that I like, in this case Cruz, and blow off anything having to do with Hannity bloviating) and, as usual, he displayed an ability far superior to any of the other candidates to keep track of Hillary's nefariousness webs of lies, evasions, criminality, and utter incompetence and wrong-headedness.
115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What about our 'Terps?!? on: November 19, 2015, 11:26:36 PM
116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dumb Ass beats up Sikh on: November 19, 2015, 11:22:06 PM

I'm wondering if there is a fund for this man?

117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Well, that sure inspires confidence! on: November 19, 2015, 11:03:48 PM
118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ's Kim Strassel goes after Cruz on: November 19, 2015, 09:39:36 PM
 By Kimberley A. Strassel
Nov. 19, 2015 7:15 p.m. ET

The Paris attacks have put a lot of things into focus. Including a new focus on a particular trait of a particular up-and-coming presidential candidate: Ted Cruz.

The Texas senator has been the stealth contender. He has quietly built his donor base and erected an early-state infrastructure. He has identified his main opponents and deployed strategies to poach voters from each. He flatters Donald Trump and Ben Carson, waiting to scoop up support if they fade. He lambastes Marco Rubio, presenting himself as a purer pick for the conservative base.

But more notable at the moment is Mr. Cruz’s calculated effort to peel off Rand Paul voters by pitching himself as Paul-lite on foreign policy. The strategy isn’t surprising to anyone who has watched Mr. Cruz’s career. A dictionary definition of “opportunistic” is to “exploit chances offered by immediate circumstances without reference to a general plan or moral principle.” And that helps explain why Mr. Cruz is both so loved and so disliked.
Opinion Journal Video
Wonder Land Columnist Dan Henninger on the President’s reaction to the French terrorist massacre. Photo credit: Getty Images.

The senator’s supporters adore him because they see him in those moments when he has positioned himself as the hero. To them he is the stalwart forcing a government shutdown over ObamaCare. He’s the brave soul calling to filibuster in defense of gun rights. He’s the one keeping the Senate in lame-duck session to protest Mr. Obama’s unlawful immigration orders.

Mr. Cruz’s detractors see a man who engineers moments to aggrandize himself at the expensive of fellow conservatives. And they see the consequences. They wonder what, exactly, Mr. Cruz has accomplished.

ObamaCare is still on the books. It took the GOP a year to recover its approval ratings after the shutdown, which helped deny Senate seats to Ed Gillespie in Virginia and Scott Brown in New Hampshire. Mr. Obama’s immigration orders are still on the books. The courts gained a dozen liberal judges, all with lifetime tenure, because the lame-duck maneuver gave Democrats time to cram confirmation votes through. Mr. Cruz’s opportunism tends to benefit one cause: Mr. Cruz.

Yet getting away with this kind of thing is harder in foreign policy, and the Paris massacre is illustrating that difficulty. For months now, Mr. Cruz has been presenting himself in debates and national forums as hawkish, even as he panders to Mr. Paul’s voters at smaller events. Last month he attended the Republican Liberty Caucus in New Hampshire, where he boasted that the “liberty movement has been integral to our campaign since Day 1,” and touted the endorsement he received from (the isolationist) Ron Paul during his run for the Senate. He enjoyed a standing ovation.

Mr. Cruz regaled the crowd about how he had opposed a proposal to intervene in Syria and how he doesn’t support “nation building.” To this he could add a few others: He has consistently voted against defense reauthorization bills that enable troop funding. And this spring he ginned up support to pass a law that undercuts the National Security Agency’s ability to use metadata to root out terror plots. Mr. Cruz, citing “privacy rights,” co-sponsored the bill, along with Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Al Franken and Barbara Boxer.

Among the vocal critics, by contrast, were the freshman Republican senators elected on their foreign-policy chops: Arkansas’s Tom Cotton and Iowa’s Joni Ernst.

It may have seemed like a good idea to Mr. Cruz at the time. But after Paris, he finds himself with a national security agenda that is increasingly at odds with the public will. Florida’s Marco Rubio (who opposed the NSA bill) had fun this week reminding Americans of the stark foreign-policy differences between himself and the Texan, noting that Mr. Cruz has supported laws that “weaken U.S. intelligence.” Mr. Rubio, who has delivered at least 10 major foreign-policy addresses in the past few years, is running as the unabashed hawk, calling for robust new U.S. world leadership. Mr. Cruz may have walked himself into playing the counterpoint—a Rand Paul stand-in.

Mr. Cruz will certainly argue that he’s more hawkish than Mr. Paul. He has consistently criticized Mr. Obama for failing to demonstrate international leadership. Many of his votes are accompanied by disclaimers. He says, for instance, that he opposed the defense reauthorization bills because they didn’t contain language prohibiting the indefinite detention of citizens.

Yet after Paris, this approach risks looking feckless. Foreign policy requires guiding moral principles and consistency. If national security continues as a pressing theme, will voters put their faith in a candidate who is on record (whatever the nuance) against military spending, against intelligence capabilities, against a proactive stance in Syria? A candidate who even refuses to condemn secrets-leaker Edward Snowden?

That’s a record closer to Bernie Sanders than to the GOP. And that will be a tough sell, even for Mr. Cruz. 
119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Gun Case Prompts Lawyers to Look Way Back—to 1328 on: November 19, 2015, 09:34:15 PM
by Ashby Jones
Nov. 19, 2015 2:42 p.m. ET

Both sides of the national gun debate are poring over history books to try to bolster their case on whether residents of the nation’s capital can more freely carry guns on the street.

On Friday, in a possible preview of a U.S. Supreme Court showdown, a federal appeals court in Washington will hear a challenge to a law that restricts who can legally carry a handgun outside the home.

A key question in the case is whether such regulations have “long-standing” precedent. That has led lawyers to comb through historical documents for examples of how guns were used during the colonial era and earlier, in England during the Middle Ages.

The lawyers are taking the unusual step with the U.S. Supreme Court clearly in mind. No matter the outcome in the case on appeal, many legal experts think the high court will soon have to step in to more clearly settle whether and to what degree the Second Amendment protects the right to carry handguns outside the home—a question the justices have yet to address.

The emphasis on historical events makes sense given how “deeply the current Supreme Court considers history in some of its rulings,” said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an expert on gun laws.

The issue of guns, and limits on their use, is under fresh scrutiny in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) this week reiterated their support for a bill, introduced in February, that would grant the U.S. attorney general the authority to ban gun sales to anyone suspected of terrorism-related activities.

The National Rifle Association and many lawmakers oppose the legislation, partly on grounds that it sweeps too broadly. “Pretty much anyone can end up on a terrorist watch list,” said NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker.
Open-carry gun activists gathering Monday in Ferguson, Mo.
Open-carry gun activists gathering Monday in Ferguson, Mo. Photo: Michael B. Thomas/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The majority of states largely allow anyone who wants a concealed-carry permit and meets a few qualifications to get one. Illinois in 2013 became the last state to do away with a total ban on concealed carry.

In Washington, D.C., and nine states, people can carry handguns outside the home only if they can show a specific need to do so, for instance if they have recently been threatened with bodily harm. At issue in the case, Wrenn v. D.C., is whether this more stringent type of permitting regime violates the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court, in its landmark 2008 decision Heller v. D.C., struck down Washington’s total ban on handguns, ruling that under the Second Amendment individuals have the right to keep handguns in their homes. Justice Antonin Scalia, the author of the majority opinion, wrote that certain “long-standing” gun restrictions were permissible under the Second Amendment, which protects the right “to keep and bear arms.”

But the opinion otherwise said little to help guide lower courts, especially in regard to one’s right to carry a gun outside the home. Nor did the court specifically define “long-standing.”

In the current case, parties that want to keep Washington’s gun-control rules in place—lawyers for both the city and Everytown for Gun Safety—are pointing to a 1328 English law passed during the reign of Edward III, decades before guns existed anywhere in the British Isles.

The law expanded on a 1285 statute that made it a crime “to be found going or wandering about the Streets of [London], after Curfew…with Sword or Buckler, or other Arms for doing Mischief,” according to a brief filed in September by lawyers for Everytown, a gun-control group backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

A collection of historians and the California Rifle and Pistol Association, a group associated with the NRA, filed their own understanding of the 700-year history of Anglo-American arms regulation. That brief, as well as one filed by the plaintiffs in the case, argues that the jury acquittal in 1686 of a man, “Sir John Knight,” who brought to a church in Bristol “a gun, to terrify the King’s subjects,” serves as evidence that the 1328 law wasn’t meant to apply broadly.

Lawyers for Washington and gun-control groups argue that officials in densely populated areas should be allowed some say over who can carry guns outside the home. Since the Heller ruling, that argument has held sway in appeals courts in New York, Philadelphia and Richmond, Va.

Gun-rights advocates and lawyers for the plaintiffs say the Second Amendment confers an ironclad right. A federal appeals court in San Francisco last year agreed, striking down permitting rules in two California counties. A larger, 11-judge panel has since decided to review that decision.

The three-judge opinion in San Francisco last year wrestled deeply with guns and history, and sent a message to those who work on gun cases that rulings of future courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, might hinge on historical precedent.

“It’s very tricky to use history like this in a contemporary legal argument,” said Priya Satia, a history professor at Stanford University.

Still, judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in addition to several Supreme Court justices, frequently look to history for help in interpreting parts of the Constitution. And the Wrenn case is no exception.

“The lawyers and their teams have dug up a lot of new historical material,” said UCLA’s Mr. Winkler. If the case goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, “I’m betting we’re going to see a lot more.”
120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Sen.Ted Cruz vs. Dr. Ben on: November 19, 2015, 09:32:38 PM
Ted Cruz Battling Ben Carson for Evangelical GOP Voters
Texas senators aims to reverse lead among this key voting bloc now held by the retired neurosurgeon
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks Monday at the Bully Pulpit forum at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Cruz defended his call for accepting Christian refugees fleeing Syria, but not Muslim refugees. Photo: Richard Ellis/Zuma Press
By Janet Hook
Nov. 19, 2015 6:33 p.m. ET

GREENVILLE, S. C.—Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is moving steadily to consolidate support for his presidential bid on the Republican Party’s right flank, but he is facing stiff competition for evangelical voters, who are turning in large numbers to retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Mr. Cruz’s efforts have been broad and deep, including a recent rally here in support of religious liberty where he called for a 10-million-person increase in evangelicals voting in 2016.

“When we stand together, the truth is mightier than lies; the light is stronger than the darkness,” Mr. Cruz told a crowd of about 2,500 at Bob Jones University, a Christian college. “There are more of us than there are of them.”

Evangelicals are one of the largest voting blocs in the GOP primary electorate in key early voting states. Cultivating them is especially important in Iowa, where such voters made up about 57% of GOP caucusgoers in 2012. Mr. Cruz’s father, Rafael, a celebrity in his own right on the evangelical ministry circuit, has campaigned heavily for his son in Iowa. His state director, Bryan English, is a minister.

A Nov. 4 national poll by Quinnipiac University found that among Republicans, Mr. Carson is the first choice of 32% of evangelicals, compared with 16% for Mr. Cruz. In Iowa, Mr. Carson also has an advantage among likely caucus goers, with the support of 23.5% while Mr. Cruz draws 12.3%, according to the Real Clear Politics poll average.

Messrs. Cruz and Carson will be among seven GOP presidential candidates speaking Friday night to a meeting of 1,500 social conservatives sponsored by the Family Leader in Des Moines.

Mr. Cruz’s supporters are banking on the Carson candidacy fading as voters come closer to actually picking a presidential nominee. Meanwhile, Mr. Cruz is quietly building a far-reaching political organization in early voting states and beyond. And while he hasn’t criticized Mr. Carson, Mr. Cruz draws an implicit contrast by arguing that he doesn’t just hold Christian values—he has fought for them in Washington.

“Some candidates will talk about religious freedom, but only one has fought for it and won,” a supporter says in a radio ad aired this fall by a pro-Cruz super PAC, Keep the Promise.

That argument has made an impression on voters like Susan Swanson, who finds both Messrs. Carson and Cruz appealing. “Both have good values, but I see Ted as a fighter,” said Ms. Swanson, who works for a Christian nonprofit center advising pregnant women in Augusta, Ga. “He’s had to fight his own party.”
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks this week at the International Church of Las Vegas. ENLARGE
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks this week at the International Church of Las Vegas. Photo: John Locher/Associated Press

Some voters prefer Mr. Carson because he is more removed from Washington. “He is a good Christian man. I do believe that’s what this country needs now more than anything,’’ said William Tucker, a machinist in Mississippi. “I don’t get the same vibe from Ted Cruz as I do from Ben Carson. He comes off as a politician first and foremost.”

Cruz supporters say he is better equipped than Mr. Carson to manage foreign policy, especially in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris. “When I look at national security and the geopolitical chess game that’s going on…I don’t have any doubt—it’s Ted Cruz who’s going to play it better,” said Rep. Steve King, a leading Iowa conservative who endorsed Mr. Cruz Monday.

Cruz supporters say Mr. King and other key supporters give the campaign an organizational edge more valuable than raw numbers in early polls. “They have relationships with the people who drive voters to the caucuses,” said Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler.

Mr. Carson’s spokeswoman Deana Bass said that Mr. Carson’s evangelical support runs deep because “people are familiar with his faith, having read his life story.” He began amassing supporters before he declared his run for president, as he wrote books and spoke to audiences about his life’s journey from troubled youth to renowned neurosurgeon that is seen as a classic tale of Christian redemption. A well-known evangelical activist, David Barton, is heading one of the super PACs supporting Mr. Cruz.

When Mr. Cruz started his campaign in late March, he was a blip on the public opinion radar, a star among tea-party activists but little known nationally. But he has turned out to be a formidable fundraiser, through a combination of small donors and large contributors, and his efforts are being supplemented by a flush family of super PACs. His campaign ended the third quarter of 2013 with more cash on hand than any other GOP candidate.

It was clear from the outset of his campaign that Mr. Cruz would make a play for the evangelical vote. He announced his candidacy at Liberty University, a Christian college founded by the late Jerry Falwell. He has made religious-liberty protection a central campaign issue, especially after the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage left many traditionalists feeling under siege.

While some candidates are staking their hopes on getting momentum from victory in one early state, Mr. Cruz is extending his reach into the swath of southern states that hold their primaries on March 1.

The Cruz playbook calls for drawing support in three of the four voter blocs within the GOP. Writing off the party’s establishment wing, he is playing to win the GOP’s tea-party activists, who are his natural constituency; libertarians, a smaller group that he has been trying to peel off from rival Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky; and evangelicals.

His biggest challenge, supporters say, is introducing himself to evangelical voters who know little about him. The campaign and one of the super PACs supporting him have been trying to spotlight his work defending religious liberty before he was elected to the Senate. A flier distributed at the Bob Jones University rally detailed court cases he argued before the Supreme Court, including a case involving the display of the Ten Commandments at the Texas capital. Some of the super PAC ads took the same tack.

His campaign is counting on the idea that the more evangelicals know about him—and about Mr. Carson—the more likely they are to back Mr. Cruz. People at Bob Jones University, where the two candidates appeared a day apart, were able to compare their night-and-day styles, with Mr. Cruz offering as fiery a presentation as Mr. Carson’s was low key.

The comparison worked to Mr. Cruz’s advantage in the case of Dee Dee Groves, who attended both events undecided between the two and came out a Cruz supporter. “I really appreciate his strong Christian stand,” said Ms. Groves, who is home schooling her children in Greenville. “I still like Carson, (but) I feel like he’s not dynamic enough.’’
121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How many refugees arrested, thrown out, etc? on: November 19, 2015, 09:23:30 PM
122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post: Actually the law does require a religious test on: November 19, 2015, 09:06:50 PM
No Religious Test? Actually, Yes, There Is

During his Monday press conference in Turkey, Barack Obama slammed opponents of his agenda to flood our nation with Syrian refugees. "When I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted ... that’s shameful," he lectured. "That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion."

Except American law says we do have a religious test for admitting refugees (in contrast with no religious test for holding public office). Specifically, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy notes, "Under federal law, the executive branch is expressly required to take religion into account in determining who is granted asylum. Under the provision governing asylum (section 1158 of Title 8, U.S. Code), an alien applying for admission 'must establish that ... religion [among other things] ... was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant.'" Furthermore, Section 1101(a)(42)(A) of Title 8, U.S. Code defines a refugee as a person "who is unable or unwilling to return to ... that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of ... religion [among other things]."

The reason we have asylum laws, and the reason they are geared toward a religious test, is that refugees are often fleeing their homeland because of religious persecution. The Islamic State is specifically and horrifically targeting Christians for persecution, slavery (including for sex) and death. Yet just 53 of the Syrian refugees Obama has admitted since 2011 have been Christians.


123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: TPP Trans Pacific Partnership erodes US sovereignty on: November 19, 2015, 08:40:20 PM
124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Syrians caught at Texas border on: November 19, 2015, 08:33:59 PM
125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris on: November 19, 2015, 08:29:14 PM
Published on on November 19, 2015
In the wake of the ISIS Paris attacks, Donald Trump has moved to a clear lead over Ben Carson and the rest of the GOP field.

Carson's laid back style and his reluctance to use force against terrorism -- he said that he would not have sent troop stop Afghanistan after 9/11 -- is costing him support in the post-Paris, post-debate polling.

In the six polls before the November 10th GOP debate and the Paris attacks on November 13th, Trump and Carson were tied at an average of 24 points each.  In two poll since -- by Bloomberg and PPP -- Trump averages 25% while Carson fades to 20%.

In the aftermath of the debate and the terror attacks, Cruz and Rubio have both gained with the Texan doubling his vote share from an average of only 6% beforehand to 12% afterwards. Rubio also rose, but only from 11% to 12.5%.

Bush continues to languish in the second tier.  Before the debate/attacks, he registered 6% in national polls and he has stayed there after them.

The surveys confirm the view that the race has boiled down to the final four: Trump, Carson, Rubio and Cruz.
126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Harvard Prof: Europe is fuct on: November 19, 2015, 07:12:12 PM
127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security, Border Protection, and American Freedom on: November 19, 2015, 07:04:42 PM
128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula on: November 19, 2015, 06:54:48 PM
Somewhere we have a post about SA fibbing abut the refugees it claims to take in and asserting that in point of fact it has taken none.  Please help me find it.
129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary: Muslims have nothing to do with terrorism on: November 19, 2015, 06:32:25 PM
130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SOCOM's reading list on: November 19, 2015, 06:25:33 PM
131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo: 41 years and $3 Billion in fundraising on: November 19, 2015, 05:11:15 PM
132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Economist takes a crack at articulating our strategy on: November 19, 2015, 05:09:19 PM
133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: November 19, 2015, 05:03:54 PM
My guess is Dr. Ben will be moving down noticeably.  He is not handling foreign affairs questions well. 
134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / His Glibness refusing to read contrary reports? on: November 19, 2015, 02:35:34 PM
135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / This seems like it could be important on: November 19, 2015, 01:47:33 PM
U.S. Eyes Russia-Iran Split in Bid to End Syria Conflict
Washington’s Middle East allies aim to coax Putin to support limits on Tehran-backed Assad’s time in power
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Oct. 20 arrived for a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin/Associated Press
By Jay Solomon
Updated Nov. 19, 2015 12:59 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration and European and Arab allies are seeking to peel Russia away from its alliance with Iran, a partnership that has bolstered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said senior diplomats involved in efforts to end Syria’s lengthy conflict.

The efforts, which have unfolded quietly through meetings involving Russian President Vladimir Putin and Middle Eastern leaders, are meant to coax support from Moscow for a limit on Mr. Assad’s time in power. Such a step would solidify an emerging international coalition and help clear the way for a more concerted military effort to counter Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Iran is seen as a brake on those efforts because of its more staunchly pro-Assad position, which it wants the Kremlin to support. If Russia holds fast to Iran and Mr. Assad, it would undermine hopes for an international consensus.

A senior U.S. official on Tuesday said Washington has seen “increased tensions between Russia and Iran over the question of the future of Syria.”

U.S. and European officials also said they believe Iran’s elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has withdrawn some troops from Syria in recent weeks, because of a strain on its resources. The IRGC has ramped up its military presence in Syria since September, in coordination with Russia’s airstrikes on rebel militias. A number of senior IRGC officers have been killed in Syria in recent months.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, met with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September. ENLARGE
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, met with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin/Reuters

Mr. Putin has held discussions in recent weeks with leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, and has indicated Moscow would seek to limit Iran’s influence inside Syria as part of any negotiated settlement to the conflict, the senior diplomats said.

Saudi Arabia, in particular, has lobbied the Kremlin against supporting Mr. Assad in the long term and empowering Iran, his closest regional ally, said Arab officials.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, held talks with Mr. Putin in Moscow that focused on denying Iran and the Lebanese militia, Hezbollah, the ability to use Syrian territory to launch attacks on Israel.

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French President François Hollande wants a new international coalition led by his country, the U.S. and Russia to combat Islamic State, which is suspected in last week’s attacks in Paris and the downing of a Russian airliner over Egypt in October.

However, Mr. Hollande, like U.S. President Barack Obama, has long held that Mr. Assad is a chief source of the Syrian crisis and must be removed from office before Syria’s woes can be addressed. Moscow and Tehran are longtime Assad supporters.

Russia offered a resolution before the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday designed to provide international support for efforts to counter Islamic State. France also is expected to offer a resolution, and diplomats said that Security Council members are seeking unity on Syria.
Residents were evacuated on Wednesday in Saint-Denis, near Paris, after a police raid on a terrorist hideout left two people dead. ENLARGE
Residents were evacuated on Wednesday in Saint-Denis, near Paris, after a police raid on a terrorist hideout left two people dead. Photo: Peter Dejong/Associated Press

The resolution from Russia defines terrorist groups in Syria in broad terms while still targeting the Islamic State extremist group. The French text will focus more tightly on Islamic State. François Delattre, France’s ambassador to the U.N., said that France and Russia would work on their respective resolutions but it remained unclear whether the resolutions eventually would be merged or remain separate. Tensions could surface among Council members if one resolution was rejected in favor of the other.

U.S., European and Arab officials said they remain cautious about Mr. Putin’s willingness to distance Russia from Iran and Mr. Assad. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday repeated his government’s official stance that no preconditions be set on the Syrian dictator’s departure as part of the negotiations aimed at ending the Syrian conflict.

Still, the growth of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and its suspected role in the recent terror attacks, has intensified calls in Washington and Europe for a unified position with Russia.

Iran offered no indication during recent talks in Vienna on Syria that it was willing to pressure Mr. Assad to leave office. But U.S. and European officials said they are more optimistic that the Kremlin will show flexibility on the Syrian leader’s tenure as the diplomacy continues.

New talks are scheduled for December, and the U.S. and Russia said they would push for a formal cease-fire between Mr. Assad’s forces and his political opponents—but not Islamic State.

“A lot will depend on where the Russians go according to their own interests,” said a European official involved in the Syria diplomacy.

Arab states have made clear to Mr. Putin that their support for the cease-fire was conditional on a time frame being set for Mr. Assad’s departure, the European official added. “They will not do that at all unless there is a clear sign of a political transition” in Damascus, said the official.

Mr. Putin held separate discussions with leaders of Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Oct. 11 to discuss Syria, said officials briefed on the diplomacy. Included in the meetings were the crown prince of the U.A.E, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the deputy crown prince and defense minister of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.

The meetings happened weeks after Russia and Iran launched joint military operations in Syria to aid Mr. Assad against an advancing insurgency that includes Islamic State and rebel militias supported by the U.S. and its allies. Saudi officials publicly warned Moscow after its intervention that Moscow could face rising opposition from Sunni Muslim states because of the Kremlin’s alliance with Shiite-dominated Iran and Mr. Assad.

Sunni Arab leaders have warned Russia that its military intervention in Syria has allied it with Shiite Iran, Mr. Assad’s Alawite sect and Christians against the region’s Sunni majority.

Mr. Putin, however, surprised his royal guests by stressing Russia would seek to diminish Iran’s role inside Syria as part of the campaign, said the officials briefed on the talks. The Russian leader specifically that said if the Arab states supported him he would help them in their efforts to contain Tehran.

Russian officials didn’t respond to requests for comment about the discussions.

Mr. Putin met Mr. Netanyahu weeks earlier in Moscow in a bid to make sure that the Russian and Israeli militaries wouldn’t mistakenly target each other inside Syria. But Mr. Putin conveyed a similar message to the Israeli leader—that Russia’s role in Syria could serve to constrict Iran’s and Hezbollah’s operations.

Last week, Mr. Netanyahu voiced confidence during a trip to Washington that Russia and Israel were now largely on the same page with respect to Israel’s interests in Syria. “If Iran wants to establish a second front along the Golan Heights as it’s established in southern Lebanon, we’ll take forceful action, as we have,” he said then.

Historically, Russia and Iran have been strategic rivals. Czarist Russia conquered territories controlled by the Persian Empire in the Caucuses and modern day Azerbaijan during wars fought during the early 1800s.

Moscow helped Iran build its Bushehr nuclear power plant after the 1979 Islamic revolution, but later cooperated with the U.S. to constrain Iran’s nuclear program. Former President Dmitry Medvedev backed United Nations sanctions on Iran that sought to force Tehran to stop producing nuclear fuel.

However, Mr. Putin, since reclaiming the presidency in 2012, deepened military and economic cooperation with Tehran. Moscow recently said it would complete the sale of a sophisticated antimissile system to Tehran. And the two countries have closely coordinated over the past year in defending Mr. Assad.

Still, U.S. and European officials said they believed Iran is concerned that Russia’s growing military presence in Syria could minimize Tehran’s influence in Damascus. And they said these divisions between Moscow and Tehran may become more pronounced as the negotiations continue.

“We think there are some tensions between the Russians and the Iranians,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said last week.

—Farnaz Fassihi contributed to this article
136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: November 19, 2015, 01:37:28 PM
Actually 1-on-1 numbers mean EVERYTHING and should be a major if not THE factor in determining the Rep candidate.
137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: November 19, 2015, 01:35:53 PM
Fair enough!

Allow me to clarify:  For quite a while now he has been advocating a coalition, led by the US (approx 10% US troops) of US, Jordan, Egypt, and IIRC Turkey and Saudi Arabia too to go in and take out ISIS (Assad too, but that was pre-Russia)
138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Zang!!! on: November 19, 2015, 01:33:17 PM
139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More quality work from Scott Grannis on: November 19, 2015, 12:00:56 PM
140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / RE-examining Grahman's strategy on: November 19, 2015, 11:55:27 AM
Generally, most of us here have sneered at Lindsay Graham, but what say we now about his recommended strategy in light of the current situation and trajectory?
141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: November 19, 2015, 11:43:34 AM
Underlining the point I have been making for a while now-- we need to keep our eye on the 1-on-1 with Hillary numbers!!!
142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Serious Study of Muslim attitudes and politics around the world on: November 19, 2015, 11:42:17 AM
143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo: Drone strikes on ISIS-- shouldn't this be secret? on: November 18, 2015, 11:31:23 PM
144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Rand Paul nails it concerning previous refugee attackers on: November 18, 2015, 08:45:17 PM
145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SS St. Louis on: November 18, 2015, 08:43:25 PM

"This is a hilariously ignorant representation of the SS St. Louis voyage.

The St. Louis originally set sail for Cuba, which unbeknownst to the passengers had enacted stricter immigration policies since they embarked and required a $500 bond and written authorization from two Cuban cabinet members.

The US tried to intervene and have them admitted to Cuba, but the Cuban government refused. Privation was rampant after the Great Depression and immigrants were seen as competitors for scarce jobs and resources.

After negotiation, the reason they were refused admittance was and remained that nobody was willing to post the $453,500 required to admit them to Cuba, because the truth is that when it's not about rhetoric and it's about dollars and cents and actually doing something, almost nobody gives a shit about refugees.

They weren't allowed in Florida because of precedent. The US had already filled its quota of immigrants from Germany and Austria that year, and there was a backlog of several years. Admitting them would allow them to the front of the line ahead of over nine hundred others who had already been guaranteed immigration. Is there any incentive to follow the law if you can just sail over and plead to be allowed to the front of the line? Nope.

After the ship returned, 254 died in the Holocaust, half the number quoted, so I'm calling bullshit on this one. The full story of the voyage is available here:

- Commentary provided by Henryk Bronislaw Hinkle-Zaleski.
146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: November 18, 2015, 05:13:33 PM
Kasich:  Yeah, weird-- and it will hit a lot of people that way.

147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Syrians with Greek passports stopped in Honduras on: November 18, 2015, 05:06:28 PM
148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen.Ted Cruz challenges Baraq to a debate on: November 18, 2015, 12:49:14 PM
149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: Dems going over a cliff on ISIS on: November 18, 2015, 12:04:54 PM
150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anonymous takes down 300+ ISIS Twitter accounts on: November 18, 2015, 11:56:39 AM
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